Guidance

Applying for a future licence under the Space Industry Act

How to get a licence under the Space Industry Act in the future.

The Space Industry Act 2018 is a major step towards establishing a flourishing space industry in the UK, with a modern, safe and supportive regulatory framework. Work across government is now ongoing, at pace, to develop the detailed regulations to implement the Act.

Licences for spaceflight and associated activities from the UK under the Act cannot be issued until these supporting regulations have been approved by Parliament. These licences will be issued by either the UK Space Agency (UKSA) or the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) depending on the activity.

Further information is set out below but we recommend that all potential applicants read ‘Understanding The Space Industry Act 2018’ and take their own legal advice:

Understanding the Space Industry Act

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What will be regulated?

The Space Industry Act 2018 (the SIA) requires the licencing of any launch, procurement of launch, operation or return of vehicles capable of operating above the stratosphere (approximately 50km) and any activities that take place above the stratosphere. It also requires the licensing of any balloon capable of operating within the stratosphere (approximately 10km-50km) with people aboard. These are collectively called operator licences.

In this document, an operator licence involving launch is generically referred to as a launch vehicle operator licence but would be either a launch vehicle operator licence for sub-orbital activities or a launch vehicle operator licence for space activities.

In most cases, the CAA will regulate sub-orbital activities and the UKSA will regulate space activities. The exception is that the UKSA will regulate all spaceflight activities involving the use of rockets, regardless of whether they are involved in sub-orbital or space activities. Rockets not involved in spaceflight activities (i.e. those that are not capable of operating above the stratosphere) will continue to be regulated by the CAA under Article 96 of the Air Navigation Order 2016 (the ANO).

The CAA also remain responsible for airspace under aviation law. The CAA has a world class reputation for safe and efficient regulation of UK airspace through the well-established process of Airspace Design Change. The CAA supports the creation of a competitive market for UK spaceflight and will make airspace design decisions in accordance with established processes and statutory duties for safety, security and the environment.

A satellite operator licence covers procurement of a satellite launch and/or the operation of the satellite in orbit. These are currently issued by the UKSA under the Outer Space Act 1986 (the OSA) but in the future will be issued under either the OSA or the SIA:

Operation OSA   SIA  
  Procurement of launch In-orbit operations Procurement of launch In-orbit operations
UK entity procuring a UK launch for a satellite     X  
UK entity operating a satellite from the UK       X
UK entity procuring an overseas launch for a satellite X      
UK entity operating a satellite from overseas   X    
Foreign entity procuring a UK launch for a satellite     X  
Foreign entity operating a satellite from the UK       X

For more information about current OSA licensing, such as what to expect from the licensing process and the obligations of licensees, please visit the ‘Applying for a satellite operator licence’ page.

The regulators will issue a spaceport licence for the operation of a spaceport. Any site from which a spacecraft or carrier aircraft intends to launch is considered a spaceport and must be licensed. A spacecraft will only be allowed to land at a licensed spaceport or a mobile installation at sea.

In this document spaceports are referred to as horizontal launch spaceports or vertical launch spaceports. A horizontal launch spaceport is a spaceport with a runway - likely to be an adapted, existing aerodrome - suitable for launching spaceplanes and carrier aircraft. A vertical launch spaceport is a spaceport - likely to be a new site - suitable for launching rockets.

The CAA will regulate horizontal launch spaceports and balloon spaceports and the UKSA will regulate vertical launch spaceports. The Act does not exclude the possibility of co-locating different types of spaceport at the same site and the regulators will work closely together should such an application be made.

The regulators will issue a range control licence for the provision of range control services by commercial entities, including tracking, surveillance and boundary control. This approach is novel: in other countries, range control is typically provided by the state. Ranges are critical to securing safety and so the regulator must be satisfied that the range control service provider can demonstrate it has the competence to provide services.

There will be no single model for a range control service provider. It may be possible to licence one or more types of range control service in individual licences but it would be necessary for the launch vehicle operator to obtain all the different elements of the required range control services for a launch. The regulator issuing a range control licence will be the CAA or the UKSA depending on the type of service for which a licence is sought.

A single entity can apply for more than one licence. For example, a spaceport operator could apply for both a spaceport and range control licence or a launch vehicle operator could apply for a launch vehicle operator, satellite operator and range control licence.

If you are interested in applying for a licence in the future, please contact spaceflight@ukspaceagency.gov.uk

What is our approach to protecting the public?

Safety is at the heart of the Space Industry Act. An important consideration for regulators is how licence applicants will be asked to demonstrate that the risks these activities pose to the uninvolved general public (AKA third parties) are as low as reasonably practicable and at a level that is acceptable to the regulator.

As low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) is a familiar concept in health and safety law, providing a benchmark for risk assessments under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Further information about ALARP can be found on the Health & Safety Executive website.

Who should I talk to about a licence?

Licences for spaceflight and associated activities cannot be issued until the supporting regulations have been approved by Parliament. If you are interested in applying for a licence in the future, please contact spaceflight@ukspaceagency.gov.uk

In addition to licences and permissions granted by the regulators under the SIA, the OSA and the ANO, we recommend that potential applicants consider other licences or permissions under separate legislation that may be required in order to undertake activities related to their operations.

Health and safety

In addition to the requirement to demonstrate how risk has been managed under the SIA, applicants should consider whether any health and safety legislation applies. We recommend reviewing the following Health & Safety Executive guidance:

  1. Understanding how to assess and control risks in the workplace and comply with health and safety law
  2. Understanding hazardous substance consents
  3. Understanding control of major accident hazards (COMAH)
  4. Understanding explosives in health and safety

Planning

All applicants, particularly those for spaceport of range control licences, should consider whether any infrastructure will require planning permission. We recommend consulting your local planning authority or the Government’s online planning portal.

Environment

Under the SIA, applicants for launch vehicle operator and spaceport licences will be required to produce an Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE). This is likely to cover the effects of licensed activities on:

  • air quality
  • emissions targets
  • biodiversity
  • marine impacts
  • noise pollution
  • water quality
  • soil health
  • environmental effects of launch failure

There is also an existing wealth of environmental requirements operating under separate legislation, independently of the AEE submission. Applicants should contact all environmental protection bodies whose jurisdiction they fall under to ensure compliance with all environmental obligations and seek independent legal advice. For example:

  • a marine licence may be required for the activity. Applicants should liaise with the appropriate marine licensing body in their area.

  • environmental permits, such as water discharge and greenhouse gas emissions permits, may be required to conduct certain activities.
  • a wildlife licence may be required where an activity will disturb or remove wildlife, or damage habitats. Applicants should liaise with the appropriate environmental protection agency.

We also recommend considering whether the services of an environmental consultant would be appropriate.

Published 8 February 2019